To Nurture and Protect

to nurture and protectComic Louis C.K. joked in his HBO special, “How do women still go out with guys, when you consider the fact that there is no greater threat to women than men? We’re the number one threat! To women! Globally and historically, we’re the number one cause of injury and mayhem to women. We’re the worst thing that ever happens to them!”

While statistically heart disease still ranks as the leading cause of death for both women and men, Louis C.K.’s stand-up routine alludes to a larger cultural narrative that depicts men as dangerous and violent and women as weak and submissive.

This narrative, known as the male ethos, conveys that aggression and power are the index to masculinity and passivity and submission are the index to femininity.

Women are to defer to masculine strength and men will ostensibly protect women who defer. These patriarchal social norms and conventions communicated in the male ethos advocate rigid gender roles and sexism and perpetuate a power-submission paradigm that fuels cultural wounding.

Pandemic Threat

The insidious impact of the male ethos is reflected in the pandemic threat of women being at-risk for domestic violenc, and rape.

Females from every segment of society, cultural and religious backgrounds and socio-economic status are susceptible to abuse, oppression and victimization. Violence towards females is not confined to a specific region or group. It is universal.

As a psychotherapist, my work with women from diverse walks of life has taught me that the most heinous evil may lurk behind the most reputable seemly door.

The upper middle class white American girl whose father is a pillar of the community lives in terror of the concealed violence and rape she encounters in her home.

Unlike the young girls or women in Afghanistan or Somalia who are subjected to the most barbaric human rights violations in a climate of impunity, comparatively she is ostensibly privileged.

Whether a woman is challenged to protect herself from serious injury or institutionalized sexism, the need to reclaim one’s drive towards self-preservation is critical.

A woman’s biological inheritance as nurturer, while a noble strength, becomes a deficit when the capacity for discerning danger is obscured by gender socialization and adherence to an ideology that encourages women to repress their instinctual aggression.

If there is any hope for change, we need to critically examine how the male ethos ideology globally supports and perpetuates violence towards women and sustains institutionalized sexism.


To Nurture and Protect

Rev Sheri Heller, LCSW

Rev. Sheri Heller, LCSW, is a seasoned NYC psychotherapist with 25+ years experience in the addiction and mental health fields. Sheri is also an interfaith minister and playwright, and the founder of The Sistah Tribe - Phoenix Project, a therapeutic theater event for at-risk women and girls in the public sector of NYC. For more information, visit


APA Reference
Heller, R. (2016). To Nurture and Protect. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 18, 2020, from


Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 9 Feb 2016
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 9 Feb 2016
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